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Windows 11 proves now is the time to get onboard with evergreen IT

  • Posted on October 29, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 5 minutes

The concept of evergreen IT has been around for some time, but it hasn’t been fully embraced by organizations and the IT community. Here, I explain why the launch of Windows 11 should change that and become a landmark moment for evergreen IT. 

Why has the pandemic put workplace technology under the microscope?
Because it asked serious questions of every organization's resilience and agility. COVID-19 shone a spotlight on an organization's ability to stay current with workplace technology. Organizations had to take action.

Those with legacy technology, complex ecosystems or tech debt were hit the hardest. They had to take a giant leap forward to survive.

Amid these many changes, deployed at unprecedented speed, many organizations have been left struggling with the introduction of rapidly changing and evolving SaaS and cloud platforms.

Most organizations will admit, it's all too easy to fall behind in the lifecycle management of your technology ecosystems. Once the juggernaut of change gets going, it's impossible to stop. Structuring your operations and technology architectures to be resilient while remaining adaptive to today’s and tomorrow’s changes is an incredibly fine line to tread.

What is the single biggest error organizations make in their digital transformation journey?
They mistake modernization for transformation or that there is a transformed state not a continuously evolving one. They buy the latest tools, software and hardware, but stop short of real transformation, failing to change how they do business or how they operate their IT. Consequently, they miss out on the true value.

Instead of embracing change, they are still doing the same things in the same way and expecting different results. They only make changes that are forced upon them, rather than proactively transforming their organization and driving the new ways of working.
Evergreen IT can be part of the solution.

What is evergreen IT and how does it help?
Evergreen IT is a modern management practice that focuses on maximizing value by making small, iterative and continuous changes to your technology ecosystem. It steers away from isolated big bang transformations and is built on agile principles.

True evergreen IT isn't just installing patches and updates. It's a continuous journey of modernizing and optimizing IT operations and practices that ultimately allows you to adjust to vendor, market, and business ecosystem changes rapidly and fluidly. It can have a profound impact on the rate at which you're able to innovate and lay the foundations for the future work, because:

1. It increases organizational resilience, competitiveness, and agility through rapid exploitation of technology.
2. It enables a more frequent and predictable OPEX cost model vs. traditional big CAPEX investments.
3. It reduces large-scale business impact risk, through a higher frequency of low disruption changes.
4. It keeps IT current, supported and secure (so tech debt is minimized).

Where does Windows come in?
When you think of evergreen IT, one example always jumps to mind: Windows 10. It's certainly not the only evergreen service, but it's a great case study. Microsoft, based on client feedback, introduced a new evergreen servicing model with Windows 10, eliminating the need for expensive big bang updates every 3-5 years.
The core OS remained largely the same, with incremental features added over time. The idea was less business disruption and no need for complex pan-organizational upgrade plans. And – beyond the IT considerations – this evergreen model offers big benefits for the business as a whole:

  • The ability to innovate and create value quickly
  • The opportunity to leverage existing investments in technology
  • The continual reduction in operational costs
  • The agility to rapidly adapt to supplier-driven change

However, most organizations have yet to embrace a fully evergreen approach and are therefore not reaping the benefits.

So, why is Windows 11 the right time?
Some thought Windows 10 might be the ‘final’ operating system, keeping to an evergreen principle that would instead deliver incremental updates instead of a significantly revised OS. With Windows 11, Microsoft has instead ensured the step up from Windows 10 will be a gentler, iterative one. That means no big bang; instead, a smooth transition. Unless of course you still have legacy versions in your environment.
With Windows 11, Microsoft has adjusted to the practical reality that clients were struggling to keep on top of multiple releases each year and have streamlined this into one annual release.

What does this all mean for IT?
Well, it removes some of the pressure IT organizations are under to keep up, and creates an opportunity to put the right operating model in place (with the right assistance).

It’s also a great time to adopt modern training and change management approaches, to increase change resilience at the people level. IT organizations can move away from onerous annual training programs, and instead embrace a more efficient and adaptive just-in-time learning model, supported by behavioral ‘nudges’ to increase digital dexterity.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly of all, organizations adopting this more mature, optimized evergreen approach will enable people to better exploit technology to drive business value. It means organizations can achieve the benefits outlined earlier, which ultimately creates enduring competitive advantage through agility and resilience.

Sounds great, but evergreen can't always be plain sailing…
It's certainly true that significant effort is needed to overcome change-resistant elements of your platforms, people and practices. Technology can seem trivial (invisible, even) when you benefit from a well-prepared and well-architected ecosystem. As soon as you're crippled with technical debt or ecosystem complexity, that picture changes.

Let's go back to Windows as an example. While it's far from unique in this respect, ultimately you're tied into Microsoft's product roadmap – so you need to adjust to a new release strategy and adapt to variability in software support lifetimes. To do this, your organization must be able to sustain continual change.

Over the years, we've seen a number of clients get stuck when attempting to keep pace with Microsoft. But it’s not just Microsoft products: other evergreen solutions in your ecosystem will need the same pace of change. Here are the most common obstacles you might face:

  • Continuing a legacy practice. Failing to put practices in place to keep software up to date results in an excess of out-of-support software in your environment.
  • Taking a siloed approach. Update rollouts can be blocked due to compatibility issues with business applications.
  • Failing to modernize management practices and tooling. Resulting in employees being forced to come back into the office to patch devices (far from ideal during a pandemic).

If these challenges sound familiar, fear not – we're here to help…

Discover your evergreen IT maturity level
Learn more about your evergreen IT readiness and understand how platforms like Windows 11 can help you generate competitive advantage. Book an Avanade Evergreen Maturity Assessment for your organization today.

 


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